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March 2017

The future of energy…today

Bambanti, harvest time, and solar irradiation

Isabela is the 2nd largest province in the Philippines, after Palawan. It is also the top producer of corn and among the top producers of rice for the country. Last January 23 to 28, 2017, the province of Isabela celebrated the Bambanti festival. The word Bambanti when translated in their dialect means scarecrow in English. The scarecrow is used to frighten away birds, pests and other insects or animals that can do damage to the produce of the land. In the end, it is meant to ensure that farmlands in Isabela have a good harvest in the coming year.

While harvest times are generally good times, “Magtanim ay di biro” literally expresses the sentiments of our farmers before harvest time. Aside from dealing with pests and unpredictable weather brought about by supertyphoons and El Nino, there’s the problem of irrigation, pesticides and the hard, manual labor out in the sun from sunrise to sundown.

While you need at least a hectare of land, 10,000 sq.m., to get economies of scale for rice and corn, a solar power system currently just needs 7sq.m. of area to get 1000 watts of energy. 1000 watts is already a good amount of power because it can already power a 1hp aircon.

On any given sunny day in the Philippines, we can “harvest” about 1000 Watts per square meter of land area. Just imagine a 1m x 1m square plot in your garden or open space. That small space receives 1000 watts of radiant energy from the sun at noontime on a cloudless day. The catch is that solar panel technology, with all its advancements in the past 20 years, can only convert 15-22% of that energy to electricity. That means only 150 to 220Watts can be converted to actual electricity in a 1sq.m. area of space from a radiant energy source of 1000Watts.

Although some solar panel makers claim 30% efficency, those are mostly on the laboratory scale. When manufactured in larger numbers the actual efficiency will decrease. The solar panels with the highest efficiency on a commercial scale belong to Sunpower of the USA. Most China-made solar panels now have efficiencies of between 15-19%, but they are improving every year.

Compared to growing rice or corn however, a solar panel’s produce does not rot, requires no pesticides or running water. All it needs is the right orientation and direct sunlight and it will harvest energy for you at least for the next 25 years.

To learn more about solar panels, solar panel efficiency, how to choose the right solar panels and its correct sizing for your requirements, attend our upcoming seminar in Cauayan City, Isabela, this coming April 8, 2017.

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